Traditionally, it is considered the responsibility of women to look after the homes. Women are in charge of everything in homes: handling family problems, catering to the needs of every family member, management of resources and so on. With the pandemic everyone was restricted to their houses. Since, entire picture of the pandemic was centered around homes, it greatly affected the lives of these home makers. The worries of job losses, salary cuts, increased expenses, and the well-being of family members was completely on women. As the life of home makers, including women who are involved in paid work, revolves around family members, these struggles in meeting day to day requirements of family members, especially in lower income households, led to increase in responsibilities and eventually increased stress .
Apart from household responsibilities, the pandemic led to the increase in all forms of violence – physical, emotional and sexual. The National Commission of Women registered an increase of at least 2.5 times in domestic violence complaints during the lockdown. A vast share of number of cases involving violence against women in India comes from family members. As per the National Family Health Survey the prevalence of intimate partner violence ranges from 3 to 43% in different states. Moreover, the increased time spent in homes exposed women to traditional norms and roles, limiting their accessibility to many opportunities.
The pandemic also gave stimulus to many newer forms of violence like online violence. It can take diverse forms like cyber bullying, cyber stalking and gender trolling. A study by the National Opinion Research Centre at the University of Chicago reported that with the increased time spent online during Covid-19, instances of gender based violence facilitated by technology went up many fold in India.
The National Commission of Women registered an increase of at least 2.5 times in domestic violence complaints during the lockdown.
Where are the women in paid work?
Female labour participation in India is 19% which is not even half the global average of around 48%. The women workforce participation has already been declining from the past few years despite the increase in the average number of women enrolling in higher education institutes. This shows that a lesser number of women are seeking employment despite having the required qualifications. Most of the women in India are employed in the informal sector. Unfortunately, these sectors were worst hit by the pandemic. This gendered nature of work has resulted in reducing the female workforce in India. A study by Azim Premji University highlighted that during the first lockdown in 2020, only 7 % men lost their jobs compared to 47% of women who lost their jobs and did not return to work by the end of the year. Indian women do 3 times more unpaid work than Indian men. The Dalberg report highlighted that at the beginning of the pandemic the amount of time women spent on unpaid work may have increased by 30%.
Female labour participation in India is 19% which is not even half the global average of around 48%.
Besides being marginalised in the real world, women are marginalised in the virtual world as well. The gender based digital divide was a great barrier to the education of millions of girls globally. In India, women traditionally have less access to technology due to cultural beliefs and norms. As per a study by UNICEF less than one third of women are internet users in India.Thus technology based education widened the existing gaps in accessing education.
According to a report published by the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies Bengaluru, only 26% of girls had access to mobile phones as opposed to 37% of boys. Moreover, phones were owned by male members in 71% of the cases. The increased duration spent on domestic work during the pandemic has led to the routine of doing household chores and thus less possibility to return to schools and jobs. Leading to many girls dropping out of schools. This will prove a great obstacle in the way of gender equality and increase the incidents of gender based violence, early marriage and adolescent pregnancy.
…only 26% of girls had access to mobile phones as opposed to 37% of boys
Keeping all these things in view, it is possible to predict that pandemic will have generational impacts on women empowerment. All these things can cripple the progress that we had reached over generations. So, it becomes necessary to evaluate this impact so that we can make the right efforts to counteract these problems.